The Dynamiter

Page 96

'It cannot so be done; and there is no help but you must carry it away with you. Come on, then, and let me at once consign you to a train.'

'Nay, nay, dear boy,' protested Zero. 'There is now no call for me to leave. My character is now reinstated; my fame brightens; this is the best thing I have done yet; and I see from here the ovations that await the author of the Golden Square Atrocity.'

'My young friend,' returned the other, 'I give you your choice. I will either see you safe on board a train or safe in gaol.'

'Somerset, this is unlike you!' said the chymist. 'You surprise me, Somerset.'

'I shall considerably more surprise you at the next police office,' returned Somerset, with something bordering on rage. 'For on one point my mind is settled: either I see you packed off to America, brick and all, or else you dine in prison.'

'You have perhaps neglected one point,' returned the unoffended Zero: 'for, speaking as a philosopher, I fail to see what means you can employ to force me. The will, my dear fellow--'

'Now, see here,' interrupted Somerset. 'You are ignorant of anything but science, which I can never regard as being truly knowledge; I, sir, have studied life; and allow me to inform you that I have but to raise my hand and voice--here in this street-- and the mob--'

'Good God in heaven, Somerset,' cried Zero, turning deadly white and stopping in his walk, 'great God in heaven, what words are these? Oh, not in jest, not even in jest, should they be used! The brutal mob, the savage passions . . . . Somerset, for God's sake, a public-house!'

Somerset considered him with freshly awakened curiosity. 'This is very interesting,' said he. 'You recoil from such a death?'

'Who would not?' asked the plotter.

'And to be blown up by dynamite,' inquired the young man, 'doubtless strikes you as a form of euthanasia?'

'Pardon me,' returned Zero: 'I own, and since I have braved it daily in my professional career, I own it even with pride: it is a death unusually distasteful to the mind of man.'

'One more question,' said Somerset: 'you object to Lynch Law? why?'

'It is assassination,' said the plotter calmly, but with eyebrows a little lifted, as in wonder at the question.

'Shake hands with me,' cried Somerset. 'Thank God, I have now no ill-feeling left; and though you cannot conceive how I burn to see you on the gallows, I can quite contentedly assist at your departure.'

'I do not very clearly take your meaning,' said Zero, 'but I am sure you mean kindly. As to my departure, there is another point to be considered. I have neglected to supply myself with funds; my little all has perished in what history will love to relate under the name of the Golden Square Atrocity; and without what is coarsely if vigorously called stamps, you must be well aware it is impossible for me to pass the ocean.'

'For me,' said Somerset, 'you have now ceased to be a man. You have no more claim upon me than a door scraper; but the touching confusion of your mind disarms me from extremities. Until to-day, I always thought stupidity was funny; I now know otherwise; and when I look upon your idiot face, laughter rises within me like a deadly sickness, and the tears spring up into my eyes as bitter as blood. What should this portend? I begin to doubt; I am losing faith in scepticism. Is it possible,' he cried, in a kind of horror of himself--'is it conceivable that I believe in right and wrong? Already I have found myself, with incredulous surprise, to be the victim of a prejudice of personal honour. And must this change proceed? Have you robbed me of my youth? Must I fall, at my time of life, into the Common Banker? But why should I address that head of wood? Let this suffice. I dare not let you stay among women and children; I lack the courage to denounce you, if by any means I may avoid it; you have no money: well then, take mine, and go; and if ever I behold your face after to-day, that day will be your last.'

'Under the circumstances,' replied Zero, 'I scarce see my way to refuse your offer.

Robert Louis Stevenson
Classic Literature Library

All Pages of This Book